Easy-to-grab pills sending more kids to ER
Small children who land in the hospital emergency room because of swallowing the wrong medication rarely get the stuff from a medicine cabinet or drawer, a report suggests.
Instead, children take pills or bottles off the floor, out of sofa cushions or from purses, countertops and other easy-to-see spots, according to the report, released on Wednesday by the nonprofit group Safe Kids Worldwide, based in Washington.
The medications that prompt a scramble to the emergency room usually belong to adults — most often mothers and grandparents, according to records studied by the group.
Kids “are getting medications from Mom's purse and Grandma's pillbox,” said Rennie Ferguson, a researcher for Safe Kids. She looked at 2,315 emergency department records on children as old as 4, compiled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2011.
About 67,000 young children visited emergency rooms that year for accidental exposures to medication.
Such cases grew by 30 percent in a decade, the report says. Previous reports have noted a similar increase, amid a growing number of prescription and non-prescription medications in homes. Emergency room case counts fell slightly between 2010 and 2011, but the difference wasn't statistically significant, Ferguson says.
In cases where records noted the source of the medications, 27 percent came from the floor or had been otherwise misplaced; 20 percent came from a purse, bag or wallet. About 20 percent had been left out on counters, dressers, tables or nightstands, and 15 percent came from a pillbox or bag of pills. Another 6 percent came from a cabinet or drawer.
The drugs belonged to adults in 86 percent of cases, the report adds. Moms (31 percent) and grandparents (38 percent) were the most common sources.
The findings are not surprising, said Salvador Baeza, a pharmacist who directs the West Texas Regional Poison Center in El Paso. He was not involved in the report.
“You have some grandparents who have their whole pharmacy on the kitchen counter or the bathroom counter, and it is there for the taking,” he says.
Even careful parents who keep their medications in a safe spot can let their guard down, he says, and briefly leave medications unsecured. “These accidents can happen in an instant,” he adds.
But there are many things parents and caregivers can do to minimize risks, says Kate Carr, Safe Kids president and CEO. The first is to store medications out of sight and out of reach — “up and away” in the catchphrase of an ongoing medication safety campaign led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The data are good evidence that small children infrequently get into properly stored medication, Carr said.
If you are afraid that you might forget to take or give medication that is stored away out of sight, consider using a cellphone alarm or other reminders, she suggests.
Parents can make sure visitors don't leave medications lying around in their purses or coat pockets, she says. They also should speak up and ask that medications be stored away when their children visit the homes of grandparents, other relatives or friends.
“That can be an awkward conversation,” Carr says. “But you can just say that ‘I have a very curious child who is just at that age where they get into everything.'” When you do think a child has taken any medication improperly, the best thing to do is call the national Poison Help Line at 800-222-1222, Baeza says.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Oregon police dog fired from job
- Study touts benefits of full-day preschool
- Tough Texas gets prison results by going softer on crime
- Former Va. Sen. Webb launches presidential exploratory committee
- Locavore movement takes to deer hunting across country
- Ohio dairy farmers cashing in on gas well boom
- House ethics panel defers campaign finance investigation of New York Rep. Grimm
- Beagle-mix proves it’s rancher’s true Buddy, hitches ride on ambulance
- EPA pays $1 million to 8 workers to stay home on leave
- House GOP sues Obama administration over federal health care law
- With no indictment, chaos fills Ferguson streets